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“The technician was confrontational, ‘How did you not know you were this pregnant?’ The emphasis in her voice was a punch in the gut. I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her that I am 16 years old? That we didn’t cover the signs of pregnancy in my health class? That the only birth control method I was formally taught in school was abstinence? Should I tell her that I have no adult in my life who looks after me other than my teachers, so I’ve learned to habitually ignore my body, my emotions, my wishes—all of me.”- Anonymous Hundreds of women have to go through the often traumatic experience of having an unwanted child. The famous court case, Roe vs. Wade, in which Jane Roe filed a case against Henry Wade, made abortion legal and put an end to most of their suffering. Abortion has been a controversial topic for decades – there have been countless protests for “the murder of a human child”, raids and shootings of abortion clinics, but also countless protests for women’s rights, and deaths from illegal abortions. Although abortion is seen as inhumane, it should remain legal because the life of a woman should be valued more than the life of an unconscious fetus, women should be able to control their own lives, and contrary to popular belief, abortion is very safe.
Women should have the right to control their own bodies and lives. The fourteenth amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”, giving women the right to decide whether they want to have a child or not, without government interference. Furthermore, according to article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control,” meaning that women have the right to make their own decisions concerning their health. The decision to have a child is critical in a woman’s ability to control her life. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) that undue restrictions on abortion infringe upon “a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Women have the right to be in full control of their lives, and giving them the the option of abortion allows them to do that.
Contrary to popular belief, abortion is completely safe. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the risk of death from childbirth is 14 times higher than with abortion. Critics claim that around 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion worldwide annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality, however most of these deaths are caused by illegal abortions. Desperate women will seek unprofessional, “back-alley” abortionists, or induce a miscarriage themselves. According to the article “The Public Health Impact of Legal Abortion: 30 Years Later”, in the US, there were 39 deaths in 1972 due to illegal abortions, and 2 maternal deaths in 1976 after abortion was legalised because of Roe vs. Wade. Women that went through the harrowing experience of an illegal abortion have been sexually assaulted while lying bleeding on a table. One woman who was interviewed by The Scene said that the abortionist had left tissue that had putrefied, and caused a massive infection – “I was in the hospital for two weeks, the doctor said basically I was seven hours away from death.” Access to legal, professional abortions reduces injuries and death caused by unsafe, illegal abortions.
The life of a woman should be valued more than the life of an insentient fetus. The fetus is not an independent, self-aware being, while the mother already has a life, goals, and achievements. Although the fetus has a heartbeat and is alive, scientifically, that does not determine its ability to perceive or feel. According to the 2010 review by Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, “the cortex is necessary for pain perception,” and is not functional until at least 26 weeks of development, after most abortions take place. This is the story of a woman who was able to be fulfill her dreams after getting an abortion – “I am 26 years old and completing my last year of doctoral studies in the Midwest with several honorable distinctions. Yet the other part of my life narrative includes a frightening time, when I went through the very uncertain process of choosing to have an abortion. I was just shy of 17 years old and nearly 22 weeks pregnant.” Would you rather force her to give that all up or remove a cluster of cells? Taking care of a child is ridiculously difficult and expensive, especially for a mother that is unprepared to do so. Women usually seek abortion because they are unable to support a child because of poverty, career goals or an unstable relationship. Forcing an unwanted child onto a struggling mother will be damaging to their lives and themselves psychologically. A study from the University of California at San Francisco found that women who were turned away from abortion clinics were three times more likely to be below the poverty level. 76% of the “turnaways” ended up unemployed. This is a story from a woman who regretted her decision to not abort: “A year later, recognizing that I was falling apart and failing my children, I asked him if he would be willing to raise them. I was living below the poverty level, with young children, unable to find full-time work, unable to afford child care, unwilling to ‘take advantage’ of the government programs that I probably qualified for, struggling with increasingly severe anxiety attacks, and falling into a deeper and deeper depression. My children deserved a chance, and they weren’t going to get that with me.” Can you imagine the desperation of a struggling single mother, pressured by everyone around her to be nothing more than a “traditional housewife”, and trapped in society’s view that she shouldn’t be able to choose whether to have children or not? We should preserve the already existing lives of women. Fetuses are not fully functional human beings that can perceive, therefore abortion should not be considered murder and remain legal.
Women have struggled through unwanted pregnancies – unable to get help – for decades. Roe vs. Wade helped change that, and it should remain that way because women should be able to control their bodies, lives, and health. Legal abortion exists for the well-being of women like the ones that have shared their stories above. For now, abortion is legal, but we must take the next step to break the shame surrounding it.
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